With an estimated 22.7 million people as at June 30 last year – little more than the numbers of a large third world city – Australia is a tiny country from a population standpoint.
With this in mind, the concept of having a single set of building rules and regulations is basic common sense. Efforts in the 1990s to achieve exactly this were commendable and as a result of these efforts, the Building Code of Australia now does much of the heavy lifting in terms of regulatory quality control around the country.
Over time, however, small pieces of tinkering at individual state levels saw rules diverge again. The upshot is that our construction industry is increasingly polarised by eight different acts of parliament and bureaucratic regimes – a situation which in practical terms means a mess of duplication across jurisdictional boundaries involving separate practitioner registration bodies; separate fees; varying qualification and no uniform qualification and experience criteria (so much for COAG); different approval regimes; fully privatised certification in some regimes, partial privatisation in others; occupancy permits being issued by building surveyors in some jurisdictions, the Crown in others; and planning and building acts fused together in some states but dedicated building acts in others. There isn’t even a unified name for the occupation which signs off on the start of buildings – building surveyors in Victoria versus principal certifying authorities in New South Wales.
For builders operating across state borders, this creates an unnecessary burden involving, in the case of companies operating across the whole nation, no fewer than eight different processes, sets of registration fees and examinations and, in many cases, lawyers.
The answer is simple: a move back toward harmonisation and efficiency. And with a new federal government, now’s the time.
The construction industry in Australia not only employs more than one million workers and contractors but also creates the built environment in which people live, work, learn and play.
It must not become bogged down with compliance and red tape. It is too important for that.